Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Killer Marijuana!!!!!

OK, I’m exaggerating to get your attention. Much like they’ve been doing in England recently with their stories of the new, super-potent “skunk” weed that is sweeping their nation. And although they haven’t actually said this skunk is killing people (as far as I know), there have been reports like this one that claim it is causing schizophrenia and violent behavior. That’s some scary weed. Indeed.

Could this reefer-madness-esque sort of thing really be true? I don’t know about modern marijuana causing murderous rampages and such but, according to the U.S. government, marijuana potency has been rising for the past 30 years and is now at an all time high (pun intended). Surely this statistic, at the very least, must be true. Surely our government wouldn’t lie to us. Not about marijuana, anyway. But, just for the sake of argument, let me play devil’s advocate here. As I am wont to do.

First, let’s think about the history of marijuana. We know people have been growing and ingesting marijuana for its psychoactive properties for at least 2700 years. And, although there is no hard evidence, I’d bet people have been using marijuana for a lot longer than that. It’s probably one of the oldest domesticated, non-food crops known to mankind. So, why is it that all of a sudden about 30 years ago marijuana suddenly started getting more potent? Is there something we discovered at that time that growers and breeders had missed for the past several thousand years? Granted, modern marijuana breeders know how genetics works. But farmers have known about selective breeding for a long, long time. You don’t need to know about genes and DNA to be able to select the best specimens to use for breeding.

Just a minute there buckeroo, the government might say, you’re forgetting about modern technologies, like hydroponics. Sounds reasonable. After all, so-called “hydro” weed is much sought after. And there are certainly some advantages to growing under perfectly-controlled conditions. Plants do grow quicker and produce higher yields. But, contrary to the hype surrounding hydroponically-grown marijuana, the potency of marijuana is determined almost entirely by its genetics. And where did these modern-day genetics come from? Did some new species of cannabis suddenly appear around 30 years ago? Hardly. Did somebody use some high-tech gene-splicing technique to create a super race of cannabis? Guess again. The genetics that people are growing today are the same genetics that have been developed and improved upon for thousands of years. Granted, there are a lot more varieties around today, but they can all trace their ancestry back to a relatively few strains that have been around for a long time.

So what could explain the finding that the potency of marijuana has been steadily increasing over the past 30 years? As is often the case, our government likes to play fast and loose with statistics. You see, this report refers to the average potency of marijuana that the government has confiscated and tested. And it is true that with more people than ever growing marijuana, and more high-quality genetics more widely available, there is a lot more good weed around. At least in places like California which, coincidentally, is where the federal government conducts a lot of its raids. So, overall, the average potency may have indeed gone up. But, and this is the crux of the biscuit, the highest potency has not really changed. True, there is marijuana today that tops 20% THC (that’s a lot). But there has always been marijuana that topped 20% THC. The Sadhu of Nepal have been smoking this high-potency stuff for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. And today, there is also marijuana that is much less potent, just like there always has been. It’s just that at this point in time, there is a greater proportion of good, compared to bad. Hence a higher average. (The government has also started including hash in their statistics, which raises the average, but that's another story.)

So don’t be misled by more of the same from your government. Marijuana today is not some completely different substance than it was 30 years ago. Or 50 years ago. Or even 1000 years ago. It’s the same pot that your parents smoked. And their parents. And so on. It’s just that where your parents might have gotten lucky and scored some really good smoke every once in a while, the good stuff is a lot more readily available today. At least in some places. And just so you don’t go off half-cocked worrying about your kids getting ahold of too much of a good thing, it’s not that bad. Research has shown that the more potent marijuana is, the less of it people tend to smoke. And achieving the same effect with less smoke entering your lungs can only be a good thing. So in reality, if the government’s claims of more potent marijuana are really true, it should make them very happy. Since its citizens’ health is the main reason for prohibition, the government should be celebrating. In spite of everything they’ve done, people will be smoking less of the new, super-potent weed. When you think about it, there’s really no downside.

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